May 31, 2011

Best of 2011 So Far: May

Best of 2011 (as of May 31)

1. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit - Here We Rest
2. Hayes Carll - KMAG YOYO
4. Kasey Anderson and the Honkies - Heart of a Dog
5. Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears - Scandalous
6. Ponderosa - Moonlight Revival
7. Robyn Ludwick - Out of These Blues
8. Left Lane Cruiser - Junkyard Speed Ball
9. Raphael Saadiq - Stone Rollin'
10. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
11. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
12. Ha Ha Tonka - Death of a Decade
13. Amos Lee - Mission Bell
14. Black Spiders - Sons of the North
15. Cage the Elephant - Thank You Happy Birthday
16. Social Distortion - Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes
17. Brad Paisley - This is Country Music
18. Blind Boys of Alabama - Take the High Road
19. Big K.R.I.T. - Return of 4Eva
20. Steve Earle - I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive

YouTube Junk: Big Smo

Because you need to know this exists.

Songs Illustrated #52

Awkward Gary Levox Photo of the Week

Taken by Mandy, Sent in by Denise. Thanks gals!

May 30, 2011

Snap Judgments: Promo Only Country Radio June 2011

Snap Judgments: Promo Only Country Radio June 2011

Extremely mixed bag this time out. Lots of good, lots of garbage, interspersed with the usual middle of the road. (Click song titles to listen)

Blake Shelton - Honey Bee
My first thought is "phoning it in." This is a catchy song, but it's such an easy release… no risk involved whatsoever. Sure Blake sounds good and the song is catchy, but there's not much "there" there. It's cheerful, radio-friendly and requires little attention. On top of that, it's mostly just a list of things that go together as a comparison to a relationship. Not bad, but at this point, I expect a lot more from Blake - at least as the first single from a new album anyway.

Trace Adkins - Just Fishin'
Following his usual pattern of "crap song-good song-crap song-good song," Trace delivers another strong release. It's well-intentioned and follows through on that message with a solid delivery. Trace just kills these "family is everything" songs. Good stuff.

Not good at all. Luke was poised to jump to the A-list… and probably still is, commercially, but this is just a bad, bad song. I like Luke and think he's got a ton of potential in the neo-traditional realm, but this is a flat-out laughable track. On the bright side, it's ripe for plenty of comedy material.

Stealing Angels - Paper Heart
Nice melody, fairly memorable song. Vocals are a little thin, but this isn't too bad overall.

Brantley Gilbert - Country Must Be Country Wide
Disclaimer: I'm not a fan of this guy (or any of his compadres, but we'll get into that later). I think he's just Jason Aldean redux, and this song does nothing to refute that opinion. Lots of name-dropping, lots of rock riffs, lots of attitude. Nothing more. Some of his slower songs I've heard prove him to be more than a one-trick pony, but this isn't very good.

Dierks Bentley - Am I the Only One
Another big talent kinda phoning it in, but at least this one's more fun. Just another light-hearted summer country partyin' song, but Dierks sounds into it enough to make me take notice. It's also populated with interesting details and characters, so it stands out to some degree.

Jason Aldean - Dirt Road Anthem
I told you he'd release this. I never had a doubt. 90% of my brain hates this so bad. It's a rap song, for those of you not in the know. He sings the chorus, but it's a rap song. And he drinks and drives in it. Not a very responsible message. Confession: 10% of my brain thinks this is very catchy and nearly a guilty pleasure. The 90% wins, however.

Jaron and the Long Road to Love - It's a Good Thing
Jaron has been trying in vain to repeat the success of his '10 hit, uh, whatever it was called - that spiteful one about flower pots falling on his ex's head. This is like his 4th single since then, to no avail. It's not country, piano pop really. Jaron sounds good though. Way catchier than anything Jimmy Wayne's put out lately. Still, not a hit. Just not substantial enough for repeated play.

Shouldn't that be "When Love Gets Aholta You" for the country market? This isn't bad, but feels a little thin. The melody just doesn't have enough highs and lows to keep my interest. Reba sounds great, as always, but this tune isn't up to her level. It sounds like a hit though.

Way better than I expected. It's a simple pop-rock summer anthem, but it's a helluva earworm. I should probably hate this but I don't… it just has a certain "it" factor I can't explain. Big hit.

Billy Currington - Love Done Gone
As happy of a sad song as you're gonna hear, "Love Done Gone" would be craptacular at the hands of a lesser vocalist, but Billy is not a lesser vocalist. The opening "babadabadaba's" nearly turned me off in the first place, but I stood strong and Billy hit a homerun with this release. I have a soft spot for bittersweet tunes like this. It's poppy, catchy and well-performed. A winning single.

Margaret Durante - Maybe Tonight
Meh. Not catchy, not that well sung. Nothing to see here.

Rodney Atkins - Take a Back Road
Looks like my predictions that Rodney's 15 minutes were up were incorrect. He milked that last album with the sh*tty "Farmer's Daughter" tack-on-hit into some staying power, and follows that up with a surprisingly good new single. It follows his usual schtick, but without any of the shockingly embarrassing lyrics he usually drops in. There's a name-drop, but it's on-point with the song's theme, so no negative points for it. Unsurprisingly, a tractor is mentioned. I think he has a one-tractor-mention-per-song quota in his contract. Anyway, not a bad song at all.

Jason Michael Carroll - Numbers
Cracker Barrel's newest employee delivers his first single for that label here, to not-so-great results. JMC's got a killer baritone, but he sounds way too stilted and karaoke-ish here. Also, the "numbers" theme gets tired out within the first two lines and it doesn't quit. This sounds like a too-clever lyric written by a lyric-critique message board regular (i.e. something I'd have written 5-6 years ago), and just isn't up to snuff with the market. Overkill in the thematic department too. Rewrite.

Randy Houser - In God's Time
Devastatingly good. Repeating myself: in the hands of a lesser vocalist, this might be overwrought and come off as way too schlocky… but Randy is not a lesser vocalist. In fact, he has, bar-none, the best voice in modern country music and he just kills in this song. If you don't listen to this with the ear of a jaded, better-taste-than-thou music snob, it's a near masterpiece. Here's hoping this guy finally gets his due.

Love this chick and this is my favorite track off her recent EP. It's kinda throwback in its theme - sounds very 90's in that aspect - but it's modern sounding. She's in great voice and this is a very solid tune. I'm so tired of happyhappyjoyjoy radio - we need more songs like this on Clearchannel.

John Rich - For the Kids (warning: this vid's a tearjerker)
You know me - I want this guy to be FTM fodder for years to come - but he seems to possibly be maturing in more ways than one. His Celebrity Apprentice appearance actually had me rooting for him - on the show and in his life, that he'll overcome the reputation he's lived down to for years. Honestly, this is not a song I'll listen to multiple times, but for what it is (an anthem for the St. Jude's Childrens Hospital), it's excellent. John sounds better than he usually does on slower songs, and this isn't bad overall. I'll average out my personal feelings and my critical perspective and give this a:

Danielle Car - Pretty Please
Thin, poorly produced. Catchy though. Pretty good mix of country and rock with a little attitude mixed in. The lyrics are middling, but in parts, memorable. That all adds up to a:

May 27, 2011

YouTube Gems: The Cleverlys

Awesomeness @ shared with me on Twitter.

YouTube Gems: Raphael Saadiq

From his album of the same title, here's Raphael Saadiq with "Stone Rollin'." RIYL: Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, James Brown, The Black Crowes, Otis Redding.

May 26, 2011

Mike Ethan Messick - The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday

Michael Ethan Messick's The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday begins with a loopy sounding intro, but once he opens his mouth to deliver the first line, you know this is a country album. Sounding something like a cross between John Mellencamp and Dan Baird of the Georgia Satellites, Messick lets his nasal Texas drawl ease out the words while slide guitars and acoustics lead the way.

Early standout "Walking Into Walls," is a bass-driven ballad that subtly describes the life of a man broken by life and love. Michael's voice drips with sorrow over lonely backing vocals that sound like they could be ghosts echoing down a photo-bare hallway.

"Must Be Time" follows up with a rail-chugging rocker backed by Mike Junger and The Trishas. It's an invigorating track with a gospel feel and a sweet harmonica threaded through.

The final cut, "Nickel," drenched in reverb and smoke, sounds something like John Cougar in a moment of relaxed inhibitions. It's full of whiskey and fire, taking the listener to some backwoods Texas dive for a sweaty dirty dance with the cowgirl he's taking home.

If there's one slight drawback to the album, it's Messick's enunciation at times. Sometimes his diction comes off a bit murky due to his drawl - leaving the listener at a loss for what was just sung. It's not a huge concern, but does make a few of the lyrics a bit difficult to discern.

Overall, The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday stands out from the Texas herd of red dirt music. It's an emotional and thoughtful piece of work that shows as much potential as it does realization.

RIYL: Steve Earle, Chris Knight, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Fun With Charts and Graphs: Trace Adkins

May 25, 2011

Country Doppelgängers: American Idol Edition!

Carrie Underwood and Emily Osment... "I see similar people."

Kristy Lee Cook and former first daughter Jenna Bush

And this one was sent to me by a reader.... love it!
(Scotty McCreery and Alfred E. Neuman)

Lauren Alaina and Candace Cameron

Not nice, Trailer!

May 24, 2011

Honest Logo

Now go read this.

Parody of Kenny Chesney's "Live a Little"

Got No Fiddle
©2011 FMT Parody
(Parody of Kenny Chesney's "Live a Little")

Crankin' out Captain Crunch, A Lunchable for my son's lunch
Starbucks coffee, It's Friday, I'll wear jeans
To work, work, half a day, husband brings in most our pay
But I'm on 40 milligrams of Paroxitene

Radio's on Country 98
Hear a catchy song that sounds so great

It's got no fiddle, got no steel
Sounds so fine with my hands on the wheel
Keep this girl happy, don't want any tear drops
Got no fiddle, sounds so pop

Friday night, here we go, Applebees and a picture show
Chicken wrap, cake for four, go see Thor
Drivin' home with the radio, crankin' riffs from Taylor Swift
Little Ms. Wonderful gives me a lift

The whole family's singing along
To an authentic country song

That's got no fiddle, got no steel
Sounds so fine when she whines and squeals
Keep this girl happy, don't want any tear drops
Got no fiddle, sounds so pop

Layin' out, back yard
Country music on my iPod
Hear some twang, hit "skip"
Lady A's a better fit

They've got no fiddle, got no steel
Sounds so fine as my skin starts to peel
Keep this girl happy, don't want any tear drops
Got no fiddle, sounds so pop

No, it's got no fiddle, got no steel
Sounds so fine, good's all I want to feel
Keep this girl happy, don't want any tear drops
Got no fiddle, sounds so pop

May 23, 2011

Out Today: New Lady Gaga!

John Rich's Songwriting Tips #52

Be fake. Hell, y'all saw me on Celebrity Apprentice being all polite and thoughtful and mature… lolz, fooled ya ass big time. I'm the champ, cheesed*cks! Anyhow, some say you have to write what you've lived. Bullsh*t! I ain't been poor since I was a kid, but some nights when I run out of cash and can't find my Amex Black card and the nearest ATM is too far to stumble to… well, I kinda know what being poor is like then. I ain't ever been dumped but I can imagine what that must feel like to poor limprods like you. Use your imagination …and I don't mean for thinking about the MILF down the street with the Lexus SUV who you'd like to have lick frosting off your…. never mind. Like they say in the classic Caddyshack, be the ball. If I only wrote about what I know, you'd think I was a rapper… bling bling bling bitchez!

*Not actually written by John Rich

Awkward Gary Levox Photo of the Week

May 18, 2011

Country Day May '11

Satirical Lyrical: Suburban Outlaw

Suburban Outlaw
©2011 FTM Satire

I never drive less that ten miles past the limit
Sometimes I log on Facebook just for unfriendin'
I hide Skoal from my wife in the glove compartment
Sometimes I blame other folks when I did the fartin'

I'm a suburban outlaw
A Durango drivin' desperado
Got a backlog of parking tickets
If my nose has a boogie, damn right I pick it
That's how I roll, y'all
I'm a suburban outlaw

I'm a dangerous man spinning four bald tires
Sometimes I drink milk that's two days expired
Half of my music collection wasn't paid for
I dump grass clippings in the yard of my neighbor

I'm a suburban outlaw
A light beer buzzin' desperado
I flirt with every Hooters waitress
If I want a hotel robe, damn right I take it
That's how I roll, y'all
I'm a suburban outlaw

I'm public enemy number five-thousand eight
Sent Black Swan back to Netflix two months late
My fantasy football team has a dirty name
Association dues ain't paid, you know who to blame

I'm a suburban outlaw
Yell at the coach when my son plays baseball
Sometimes I like to crank Limp Bizkit
Pretend I'm not home to a Jehovah's Witness
That's how I roll, y'all
I'm a suburban outlaw

May 17, 2011

Out Today: The Rankin Twins - Silver Lining EP

The lovely, and extremely nice, Rankin Twins (or as Rita B calls them: well, see album cover) celebrated the release of their EP, Silver Lining today and you should check it out. They are folksy poppy country with great harmonies and catchy songs. Listen to song samples or purchase a digital copy at iTunes. Purchase a physical copy here.

Songs Illustrated #51


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